Between Anarchism and Marxism: The beginnings and ends of the schism…. Reply

By Benjamin Franks

This paper examines the development of the schism between Marxism and anarchism, which characterized the relationship between the two ideologies during the ‘short twentieth century’ (to borrow Eric Hobsbawm’s phrase for the period 1914-1991). In addition, it looks at the development of collaborative interactions between anarchism and Marxism in the subsequent 20 years, which parallel a more mutually productive and fluid interaction prior to the Russian revolution.

In analysing the development of the schism this paper explores two distinctive methodological approaches to investigating these apparently separate ideologies: one method is derived from analytic political philosophy, while the other is based on Michael Freeden’s conceptual approach. This is done in order to show that, contrary to some standard analytic approaches, anarchism and Marxism are not wholly incompatible, and there are ideological constellations of anarchism and Marxism that allow for significant productive and mutually-supporting collaborations based on shared meanings. Standard analytic philosophical (and analytic political theoretical) methods tend, with a few exceptions, to make the assumption of an unequivocal difference between anarchism and Marxism, with the former based on an explicit rejection of the state, whilst the latter, following Friedrich Engels, regards the state as playing a pivotal social emancipatory role.  Such analytic approaches tend to lead to the conclusion that any substantive coalitions between Marxists and anarchists are unstable, pragmatic responses or based upon failures of principle or brought about by coercion or confusion.

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